Newspaper wars in Canada rage on

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TORONTO--The Advertising Club of Toronto's annual Newspaper Day erupted into a major debate Jan. 26 as the four major dailies in the Toronto market went head to head over circulation, readership and advertising sales in front of an audience of 425 marketing professionals.

The three-month old national daily Canadian newspaper, National Post, took the opportunity to announce how well it was performing since its launch, much to the chagrin and argument of its main competitor, The Globe and Mail, which had been Canada's only natioal newspaper for more than 150 years until the Post launched in late October last year. The National Post, owned by Canadian newspaper chain Southam Inc., claimed it is now the third largest selling daily in Canada, after The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail.

While Don Babick, president and publi-sher of National Post, announced its circulation was "80% ahead of forecast" with average weekday paid circulation of 272,778, The Globe's president and CEO, Phillip Crawley, argued the Post was offering cut-rate subscription rates and is essentially buying circulation. He argued that the real truth won't be known until the newspaper industry's audited circulation numbers are available later this year.

National Post's circulation target for its first year is 325,000, which the chain touted on its pre-launch rate card. Southam's 32 major market dailies haven't lost readers to the new paper, said Mr. Babick, who called that "particularly gratifying" considering some of the early speculation from critics.

Mr. Crawley began his presentation mocking the National Post ads of gold and black which use the theme, Pre and Post, indicating what was true of newspapers before its launch, and what the Post offers now. He held up a mock ad indicating its own circulation had risen from a Pre level of 321,166 to a Post level of 330,000.

Marketers haven't embraced the National Post, suggested Mr. Crawley, citing its low number of ads. "It's certainly not proving a winner on advertising," he said.

Senior executives from The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun also participated in this event, but acknowledged with good humor that, clearly, the fight was on between the two national dailies, the Post and the Globe.

Copyright January 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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